Despite scandal, Jewish coaches’ Final 4 bagel brunch continues

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Of all the festivities taking place on Final Four weekend, the Jewish Coaches Association annual bagel brunch probably wasn’t the first thing you thought of.

An article in Tablet Magazine details the event that first took place at the 2004 Final Four in San Antonio, where a group of coaches with Jewish heritage get together for food and drink on Saturday morning. Nothing heavy.

“The Jewish coaches are sort of a fraternity in itself,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner is quoted as saying in the article. “It’s a strong group, and just to have an opportunity to be part of it is definitely an honor.”

Pastner is the most prominent of the likely attendees, along with Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg and Keith Dambrot of Akron.

But the story gets deeper, making this year’s brunch different than ones that have come previously.

The two founders of the event are former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and former Syracuse assistant Bernie Fine.

Fine’s name has obviously been in the news, as he has been accused of molesting two Syracuse ballboys back in the 1980s. Some in the organization have come to his defense, including the executive director of the JCA.

“To me, he’s been like a grandfather,” Jason Belzer is quoted as saying. “You can never suspect anybody like that of something like that.”

But the bagel brunch marches on, despite Fine’s legal troubles. There could be as many as 100 coaches at the even this season, ranging from Division I to Division III.

Pastner won the Red Auerbach Award last season, the organization’s top prize. His Tigers finished with a 26-9 on the season.

“We are a minority,” Pastner says in the piece. “We really are a minority, as it relates to coaching and to some of the natural challenges of recruiting.”

So, if you’re in New Orleans, maybe you could stop by. Grab yourself a bagel. Make some good conversation. It sounds like a good time.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_